Research paper figures among the top cited since 2016 in the journal Computers and Geotechnics

The co-authored article entitled “Numerical study on the response of a group of energy piles under different combinations of thermo-mechanical loads” by Alice Di Donna, Alessandro F. Rotta Loria and Lyesse Laloui figures as one of the top cited research papers in the international scientific journal Computers and Geotechnics (source: Scopus). The paper presents one of the first analyses available about the multiphysical behavior of so-called energy pile groups, that is, innovative geotechnical structures that can provide combined structural support and energy supply to all types of built environments. The considered research has contributed to the development of fundamental knowledge for the analysis and design of such geotechnical structures, which are subjected to the unprecedented combination of mechanical and thermal loads.

Prof. Alessandro Rotta Loria Receives the Zeno Karl Schindler Prize

Prof. Alessandro Rotta Loria is the recipient of the 2019 Zeno Karl Schindler (ZKS) Prize. The ZKS Prize is a personal award that is assigned by the Research Commission of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) on behalf of the Zeno Karl Schindler Foundation. The purpose of the Zeno Karl Schindler/EPFL Prize is to distinguish a research work of particular excellence performed at EPFL in the field of sustainability and/or environmental sciences.

The ZKS Prize is yearly assigned to one awardee selected by a panel of distinguished scientists from a list of candidates spanning across the entire EPFL. This year, Prof. Rotta Loria was awarded the ZKS Prize “for his groundbreaking investigations and exceptional contributions to the understanding of the behavior of energy geostructures. His discoveries allowed the establishment of fundamental concepts for the design of geo-energy infrastructures.” The considered investigations fall within one of the core areas of expertise of Prof. Rotta Loria about multiphysical and multiscale interactions between the built environment and the shallow subsurface, which will be further developed within the Mechanics and Energy Laboratory that he is directing in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University.

Prof. Rotta Loria organizes the minisymposium “Engineered Geomaterials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability” at the ICEGT2020

In the context of the next 2nd International Conference on Energy Geotechnics, to be held at the University of California San Diego from September 20th to 23rd, 2020, Professor Rotta Loria organizes a minisymposium entitled “Engineered Geomaterials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability,” and welcomes abstract submissions by July 31st for a great event. A summary of the minisymposium is reported in the following.

Geomaterials such as soils, rocks and concrete play a critical role for human activity and development. Through their properties and behavior, geomaterials can represent resources or hazards for the humankind. Decades of scientific research have concentrated significant efforts in improving the understanding and prediction capabilities of the properties and behavior of geomaterials. Recent advances increasingly focus on multiphysical properties and behavior to meet engineering applications and solve related problems that typically involve a variety of demands for these materials, such as the capability to sustain loads, transfer heat with more or less ease and be permeated by fluids. The available competence, drawing inspiration or being mediated by nature, can currently be used to develop so-called engineered geomaterials: multiphase physical systems characterized by specific properties and behavior for the most various engineering purposes. This minisymposium gathers the latest fundamental studies from world leading experts working at the interface of different fields to develop competence serving engineering geomaterials for energy and environmental sustainability. The scopes involved are broad, and include fundamental experimental and theoretical investigations aiming to engineer the properties and behavior of geomaterials via thermal, electrical and chemical treatments, biomediated solutions as well as bioinspired techniques. The application of these studies covers large engineering horizons, such as the development of novel soil improvement and stabilization techniques to address natural hazards, rock weathering techniques to facilitate geoenergy harvesting, and concrete improvement techniques targeting the sustainability of extreme loading conditions.

***To submit your contribution through the Easychair software, you will need to mention the targeted minisymposium in the “keywords” section.

Image copyright – Prof. John McCartney and Ingrid Tomac

Prof. Rotta Loria has been nominated Task Force leader by the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering

Professor Alessandro Rotta Loria will serve the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering as the leader of the Task Force “Academia-Industry Partnership for Innovation in Energy Geotechnics,” initiated within the context of the Technical Committee 308 on Energy Geotechnics. In recent decades, a substantial amount of scientific research has been developed to increase the knowledge about geosystems that involve the harvesting and/or storage of energy through the ground. Increasing technical advances and applications have also been developed to foster the diffusion of the previous systems and to serve human activity needs. The previous activities, which inherently characterize the science and engineering of Energy Geotechnics, are under continuous progress and can revolutionize the fields of civil engineering, energy engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, urban planning, and beyond. However, they are often restrained by a mutual limited access of results, discoveries and needs between academia and industry. The mission of this Task Force is to establish a prominent partnership between academia and industry to bridge the gap between the considered fields and to foster scientific discovery, engineering innovation, technology transfer, advanced professional training, financial support, and the exchange of common visions and needs in the scope of Energy Geotechnics.

A recent investigation co-supervised by Prof. Rotta Loria is featured by the EPFL webpage

A fundamental study resulting from a collaboration between academia and industry, providing an assessment of the potential of underground tunnels to serve as heat exchangers through the harvesting of the heat transferred by the airflows in such environments, has been published on the webpage of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The results of this study have been summarized in a research paper published in the international scientific journal Applied Thermal Engineering. This breakthrough paves the way for the understanding and development of innovative applications of so-called energy tunnels, which can supply renewable energy to built environments, from the building to the city scale.

The MEL welcomes Mr. Manan Shah as a new undergraduate research assistant for Summer 2019

The Mechanics and Energy Laboratory welcomes Mr. Manan Shah as a new undergraduate research assistant for summer 2019. Manan will work on the project “Performance of geotechnologies for energy harvesting and storage.” This project has been awarded funding from the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Office for the summer.

Manan is an undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University. He is interested in aerospace systems, and has been involved with NUSTARS, the rocketry club at Northwestern.

The MEL ranked 3rd across the entire Northwestern University for the number of attracted research students

The Mechanics and Energy Laboratory is proud to announce that it ranked third across the entire Northwestern University for the number of undergraduate students attracted for a funded research project to be developed during Summer quarter.

The considered research project, entitled “Performance of geotechnologies for energy harvesting and storage,” was selected by the Office of Undergraduate Research of Northwestern University in the context of the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program pairs inexperienced students with faculty working in a different field with the aim of enriching their undergraduate educational experience and .

21 applicants over a total of 203 students (applying to a total of 18 projects) with expertise in environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, computer science, material science, economy and music applied to the advertised position.

The MEL is thrilled to complete the selection process and start this exciting experience!

The Northwestern MEL is looking for an Undergraduate Research Assistant for Summer Quarter

The Mechanics and Energy Laboratory of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department within theMcCormick School of Engineering, directed by Prof. Alessandro Rotta Loria, is looking to hire an undergraduate student between June 17th and August 23rd to develop a research project as part of the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP). The URAP is designed to help students of all disciplines get started in research and aims at pairing students who are new to research with a faculty mentor. All URAP positions are paid. The project is expected to last 6 weeks of full-time equivalent work.

Additional details on the considered research project can be found here:

In addition to the previous job description, please visit the Office of Undergraduate Website to find eligibility guidelines, application instructions, expectations and tips for preparing your resume and cover letter, a link to the application site, and FAQsApplications for this positions will be accepted until 5/27/19 (you need a resume and cover letter to apply).

Prof. Rotta Loria delivers a 1-day training within the EMI Conference at Caltech

Interested in expanding your knowledge on the theoretical essentials governing the multiphysyical behavior of geomaterials and the practical application of these concepts to the analysis and design of geostructures that can provide renewable energy? You are welcome to join the 1-day training entitled “Multiphysical Analysis and Modeling of Energy Geostructures” that is going to be delivered by Prof. Rotta Loria prior to the Engineering Mechanics Institute Conference at the California Institute of Technology on June 17, 2019.


Welcome to the MEL

Professor Rotta Loria welcomes you to the Mechanics and Energy Laboratory of Northwestern

We work at the interface of the fields of geomechanics, structural mechanics and energy to solve critical questions and problems related to three interconnected scopes:

  1. The understanding of the mechanical behavior of geomaterials under multiphysyical conditions that are associated, for example, to energy production and storage, and the modification of the properties and structure of such materials for engineered applications;
  2. The analysis and design of novel multifunctional geotechnologies that can serve the built and natural environments in a variety of roles, such as structural support, energy supply and hazard prevention means;
  3. The conceptual development of geosystems and urban networks wherein the subsurface is employed as a new spatial, material and resourceful medium for the sustainability and development of human activity with a limited impact on the environment.

To address the previous challenges, we perform theoretical and experimental research activities that address a multitude of scales: from the scale of the particles that constitute the investigated materials to the scale of cities. The ultimate goal of our activities is to achieve groundbreaking results for the advancement of science and engineering, and the improvement of our lives.

The employment of our theories and results aims to develop new (i) materials, (ii) technologies and (iii) systems that allow for the achievement of efficient energy harvesting and storage applications, the development of resilient structures and infrastructures, the prevention or mitigation of natural hazards, and the establishment of built environments that can adapt their response to meet human activity needs.